March 07, 2003

An Email Exchange

>>>>>Lafayette
>>>>>
>>>>
>>>>Truly, Americans have very short memories.
>>>>
>>>>But one of the things I didn't remember can
>>>>be found in Shirer's book on the fall of
>>>>the Third Republic. Apparently, Petain
>>>>wanted to go to North Africa in '42 to whip
>>>>up the troops to oppose the coming Allied landing.
>>>>The Germans wouldn't let him go; presumably because
>>>>they didn't like the risk/reward.
>>>>
>>>>It seems like there are two Frances. There is the
>>>>good Republican France--the France of Lafayette, Zola,
>>>>Jaures, Rostand/Cyrano, De Gaulle, Marc Bloch, Raymond
>>>>Aron. And then there is this other . . . thing . . .
>>>>
>>>>I suppose the same could be said for the U.S.
>>>>

>>>
>>>So what do we do? I favor praising Lafayette, de Gaulle, and Aron,
>>>and pretending that Petain and Laval never existed. France is no more
>>>their country than the U.S. is the country of Benedict Arnold,
>>>Jefferson Davis, and Nathan Bedford Forrest
>>>

>>
>>I suppose that is the polite thing to do.
>>
>>May want to throw in Bir Hacheim while
>>you're at it though. (Shield that protected
>>the poorly deployed British 8th Army from
>>being crushed between the hammer of Rommel's
>>armour and the anvil of the Mediterranean, men
>>scorned by their nation's cowardly leadership
>>fighting and dying in the heat of the desert day
>>and the cold of the desert night. With their
>>blood, kept the Nazi monsters from getting loose
>>in Palestine and Africa . . . . etc. etc. )
>>

>
>do you think that George Will and the others who
>blether about cheese-eating surrender monkeys know
>enough about history to know that only two countries--
>Britain and France--had the guts and honor to try for
>Hitler's head?
>
>Only they declared war on Hitler--everyone else waited
>until Hitler brought the war to them...
>

Posted by DeLong at March 7, 2003 10:40 AM | TrackBack

Comments

The diatribe that Will and others hurl at France is no different than the discourse they have used to describe their domestic political opponents over several decades. History is unimportant to them. Diplomacy is unimportant to them. Winning today's war of words is everything. It is the politics of personal destruction applied at the international level. That level of discourse is dualistic and so high school. It requires little personal thought or self evaluation. All it requires is to sign on to a team, learn the cheers and the fight song and take no prisoners. It is little different than cheering for a football team. "Dittoes!!"

Posted by: bakho on March 7, 2003 11:29 AM

"...only two countries -- Britain and France -- had the guts and honor to try for Hitler's head? -- Only they declared war on Hitler--everyone else waited until Hitler brought the war to them..."

Well, not counting the Czechs of course, who were fully willing to defend themselves and had both capably defended borders and a functioning democracy -- certainly compared to Poland a year later -- when they were handed over on a platter to the Nazis in 1938 in that very memorable show of "guts and honor", for the sake of "peace in our time".

~~
" All is over. Silent, mournful, abandoned, broken Czechoslovakia recedes into the darkness.

"She has suffered in every respect by her association with France, under whose guidance and policy she has been actuated for so long.... Every position has been undermined and abandoned on specious and plausible excuses...

"We have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel with us along our road... We have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged and that the terrible words have for the time been spoken against the Western Democracies: 'Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.'

"And do not suppose that this is the end. This is the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup...."

-- Winston Churchill, 1938, speaking thereon.
~~~

The "guts and honor" that suddenly appeared in 1939 re Poland had something to do with the thought process: "Oh my God, if we sit back and let him digest that he'll be able to do to *us* what we let him to do the Czechs!"

Posted by: Jim Glass on March 7, 2003 12:10 PM

>>do you think that George Will and the others who
>blether about cheese-eating surrender monkeys know >enough about history to know that only two countries-- >Britain and France--had the guts and honor to try for
>Hitler's head?

So now we're confusing George Will with a cartoon character on the Simpsons?

And didn't Chamberlain's appeasement strategy incrementally surrender chunks of Europe, emboldening Hitler?

And didn't the UK dither on declaring war on Hitler for several days after his invasion of Poland?

And didn't the French collaborate extensively with their occupiers, particularly in the realm of rounding up Jews for deportation and death in the camps?

Lafayette's two-century-old efforts still hold a warm place in America's heart. Eisenhower's exertions, and the sacrifices of his soldiers, which took place within living memory,
have evidently been forgotten.


Posted by: Bucky Dent on March 7, 2003 12:18 PM

Before passing global judgement on French charcter, you should actually look at historic facts.

Compare the rate of survival of Jews in the different countries occupied by Germany during WW2: France, Denmark, Belgium, Hungary....

You will find out that the rate of survival (75%) is much higher than everywhere else. On of the reason is that many Jews were sheltered by the local population. You have some villages of heroes in the South of France were most families have sheltered Jewish children.

That is certainly no excuse for the actions of Vichy government, but we must remember that it was not a democratic government and that the circumstances were very exceptional(military occupation by a foreign country).

Posted by: fberthol on March 7, 2003 12:31 PM

There is some data on this Israeli government site about "The Righteous Among the Nations" (people who saved Jews during WW2)

http://www.israel-mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH00n90

"No exact figures of Jews saved through the assistance of individual non-Jews are available, though their numbers run to the many tens of thousands. In France, over 200,000 Jews survived, many of them thanks to non-Jews. The approximate figures for some other European countries are: Belgium - 26,000; the Netherlands - 16,000; Italy - 35,000; Denmark - 7,200; Norway - 900; Germany and Austria - 5,000-15,000; Poland - 25,000-45,000; Lithuania - up to 1,000; Hungary - over 200,000, a great many of them through the heroic efforts of Raoul Wallenberg and Carl Lutz (see further); Greece 3,000-5,000; Yugoslavia - up to 5,000; Albania - 1,800. No figures are available as yet for the Ukraine and Russia."

I think that if the lived today, The Righteous would support Palestinians right.

Posted by: fberthol on March 7, 2003 12:41 PM

I don't think a comparison of survival rates between France and other countries says much of anything about national character. I say this neither to defend the French nor to criticize them, except insofar as to say they're as human and varied as the rest of us.

Like most countries, France had a small number of people willing to actively help the Germans persecute the Jews, a small number willing to put their own lives at risk to harbor Jews, and a very large majority of the population that was looking to get through the war with their lives and families intact and avoid trouble at all costs. As Americans, we should be grateful we were never put through this crucible as a test of national character.

France's unique political situation in the war was why so many Jews survived in France. Germany didn't control the country as thoroughly as it did the Netherlands or Poland. It's a big country, Germany did not want to station too many soldiers there, Jews blended in more easily than in Germanic countries, and the Vichy government was happy to deport foreign-born Jews in France and their children to fill German quotas while protecting native French Jews.

I apologize for going off at length on the subject... but as uncomfortable as I am with the tedious foreigner bashing we've all been hearing lately, I'm even less comfortable using WWII records against a country out of context.

Posted by: Brittain33 on March 7, 2003 01:25 PM

Tell us, fberthol, would The Righteous support the printing of Palestinian textbooks which characterize Jews as monkeys, fit only for enslavement or slaughter? How would the Righteous view the fact that Mein Kampf is a popular publication among Palestinians, and that the Palestinian governing authorities have a history of alligning themselves with fascists, all the way back to the Grand Mufti's open support of Hitler? Are the Israeli's without fault, and innocent of wrong doing? Of course not, but which entity in the Middle East has done the most to support human rights? Arafat? Saddam? Assad? Mubarak? Fahd? You will notice, I did not name countries, but dictators. In opposition, we have Israel, with all it's imperfections and wrongdoing, which still has the regular events called elections, in which even some Arabs and other non-Jews can vote. Given that world does not give us choices of purity, but only choices between relative degrees of moral failure, why is it that the entity that affords the largest amount of human freedom, by a large margin, singled out by so many for the abuses it commits, while they remain largely silent about the far greater abuses committed by that entity's neighbors?

Posted by: Will Allen on March 7, 2003 01:25 PM

Baiting the trolls again, Brad? I should add that no two men have been so unjustly maligned in history as Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, especially by Churchill, their self-appointed character assassin--all conservatives in this country have followed Churchill in using Chamberlain as the embodiment of foreign policy cowardice. If my memory serves, Daladier was perfectly willing to go to war with Germany over Czechoslovakia, but did not do so because he would have had to go at it alone--neither Britain nor the U.S. would lend support given that both _sympathized_ with Hitler's demands (the Sudeten, after all was a German-majority area.)

As for Chamberlain, trusting Hitler in the agreement was a serious mistake, but once Hitler showed his true colors by invading the rest of Czechoslovakia, it was Chamberlain, not Churchill, who gave military guarantees to Poland and who dusted off the alliance with France in order to warn Hitler against any further aggression. And it was under Chamberlain's urging, not Churchill's, that Britain declared war on Germany after the invasion of Poland.

The France of Petain and Laval (you should also mention Le Pen and the now forgotten a******s in the old French army who tried to frame Dreyfus, and the new French army who tried to wage a war of annihilation in Algeria) is fortunately impotent by now and will never be a major force in French politics--I wouldn't be surprised if Le Pen is one of the few major French politicians to come out in support of the U.S. over the Iraq fracas.

In short, I'm profoundly glad that France today is the way it is, and not the way it could have been if the political right in France had not first collaborated with Hitler and then committed suicide in Vietnam and Algeria.


Posted by: andres on March 7, 2003 01:26 PM

>under Chamberlain's urging, not Churchill's, that Britain declared war on Germany after the invasion of Poland.

Of course, since Britain had effectively disarmed itself unilaterally, against Churchill' strenuous objections, it was a merely symbollic gesture.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on March 7, 2003 01:37 PM

It should be mentioned that the US Army learned its strategy, tactics, engineering, and so on from the French, in the French language, until MacArthur became commandant of West Point. In WWI, the French made the artillery and the aircraft for the US, and taught the Americans how to use them.

Posted by: etc. on March 7, 2003 01:58 PM

"Tell us, fberthol, would The Righteous support the printing of Palestinian textbooks which characterize Jews as monkeys"

Not cheese-eating surrender monkeys, I hope.

Posted by: fberthol on March 7, 2003 02:54 PM

The ad hominem rhetoric directed at France is rather stupid, just as the "cowboy" nonsense hurled in the other direction is rather stupid. The Chirac government is pursuing what it believes are in France's interest. That is what goevernments do. The Chirac government has been fairly open in it's belief that thwarting the Bush Administration, and American power in general, is in France's interests, even at the cost of maintaining the status quo in the Middle East, leaving Hussein and other tyrants in power. If one believes that a rapid change in the status quo in the Middle East is essential to the protection of westerners from massive slaughter by entities which have access to oil wealth with which to obtain the means to do so, and that removing Hussein is the next step in affecting the rapid change in the status quo, then the Chirac government must viewed as being hostile to that goal, and further interactions with the Chirac government must reflect that hostility. This isn't about name-calling, or who acted well or abominably in the past, but rather what various entities need to do in the future to secure those goals they see as essential.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 7, 2003 03:00 PM

At least *they* have been straightforward about their interests... And with 77% of the French population opposed to the war, with or without UN mandate, the French goverment is simply being (anachronically?) democratic.

Is it really in the interest of the US to bully each and every country that does not aggree with its aggresive foreigh policy? What is this leading us to? What would happen if this attitude was applied to all dissenting countries? Say, Mexico and thus, apparently, Chicanos living in the US?

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/07/opinion/07KRUG.html

To me it sounds like the current Administration is doing its best to have the US look like the worst parody of itself. Making it increasingly difficult, into the future, to ever come close to be able to claim the moral high ground again. It's a total squandering of America's superb soft power. That power that had people in the most retrenched corners of the globe drink Coca-Cola and look up to America as the liberator country...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 7, 2003 03:28 PM

Thank you, Mr. Allen, for cutting to the point.

Today on Left, Right & Center (a KCRW program here in LA) David Frum stated the administration's position on Iraq quite clearly. War is necessary (a) to remove an evil dictator who is building/harboring WMD; (b) to break the direct/indirect support given by Iraq to terrorists (one such item of support being the continued existence of the Saddam regime in the face of American hostility; and (c) to remake the Middle East in order to root out the causes of terror.

While I appreciate Mr. Frum's honesty, I think he (and Mr. Allen) are flat wrong, and I think that the French have the better of the argument.

1. Where is the WMD? Iraq has been under constant surveillance since the end of the Gulf War, including hosting for a number of years a very intrusive inspections regime. According to a number of reports, every American lead on WMD has been wrong. (source: daily kos. take it for what it's worth.) Also, even if he has WMD, what's wrong with using inspections, as opposed to war, to root them out and destroy them. Colin Powell today said that the issue is one of Iraq's intent. But he's just wrong: the issue is one of REMEDY. The french, russians, germans, chinese (and others) believe that the appropriate remedy for inadequate compliance with UN Res. 1441 is further pressure, not war. Powell fails to address why those nations are wrong.

2. There is NO evidence of cooperation between Iraq and Al Q. If Powell's best evidence of cooperation is Saddam's recent audio tape, he should be embarassed. If he has better evidence it needs to be disclosed. This issue is too important, and the administration has lied too often, for citizens like me to accept the administration's position on trust.

3. Hasn't it occurred to anyone that the cure of occupation might be worse than the disease of the continued, but contained, presence of Saddam? Look at the breakup of the Soviet bloc and Yugoslavia. We didn't even invade those countries and in many places there was a lot of blood shed. Do we have any reason to believe that we can occupy Iraq and create an environment by which the hatred of the US is DIMINISHED?

WHile I have not been following french politics closely enough to comment on all the reasons the french may oppose the war, here are a few. The government is following the will of its people who are overwhelmingly against the war. The people are against the war because they perceive it as a war of american aggression. Also, european nations are far more likely to bear the brunt of future islamic terror, given the numbers of muslims already in europe.

As for arms trading (see instapundit and stephen den beste), its hard to imagine what evidence could exist which is worse than what the americans did during the iran-iraq war.


Posted by: FDL on March 7, 2003 03:35 PM

If it is in the vital interest of the United States to affect rapid change in the status quo of the Middle East, then it should undertake those actions that will allow that to happen. In some instances this will require open, forceful, exercise of power, whether military, economic, or merely rhetorical. In other instances, a much lower profile is required. One cannot characterize ahead of time which approach is superior. You oppose the Bush Administration in this instance because, along with your near hatred of the Bush Administration, you believe that the status quo in the middle east, or a slow change in it, is a tolerable state of affairs. Other people, every bit as reasonable or wise as you, disagree. Guess what? Nobody has perfect wisdom, and all are stumbling along, trying to make as much sense of affairs as they can. This is why the employment of ad hominem rhetotic, weather it be regarding tremulous, fromage- consuming, simians, or gulags, or other nonsense, is so pointless.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 7, 2003 03:42 PM

Talking about changing the status quo in the Middle East, how much would bribing both sides to the negatiation tables in the Israel-Palestine conflict could cost? 2 x 6 billion dollars? Even the most concervative estimates for a war on Iraq are a full order of magnitude inferior to that...

And how about allowing elections to take place in Palestine and allowing Palestinian delegates to freely travel to London, or wherever, to discuss political reforms? I thought these were the preriquisite for any negociations with the PA. How convenient to both say that and simultaneously allowing Israel to defer. Talk about seeing the tree in lieu of the forest as far as reforming the Middle-East is concerned...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 7, 2003 04:08 PM

OOPS: Even the most concervative estimates for a war on Iraq are a full order of magnitude SUPERIOR to that. :-7

(is someone gonna try to make an argument out of this? please tell me wrong!)

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 7, 2003 04:12 PM

Concerning the comparison between Iraq now and Germany in the 30's:

If the comparison is relevant, how can you explain that neighbouring countries (Syria, Turkey, Saoudi Arabia, Iran, Jordania)do not want the invasion of Iraq by the US?

The countries which should be the most at risk are far from convinced.

It is as if Poland and Tchequoslovaquia had refused an American intervention against Hitler in 1938.

How can G W Bush be taken seriously when he asserts that by invading Iraq, he "defends" the US ?

Posted by: fberthol on March 7, 2003 04:16 PM

The French and the Russians will not support a robust inspections regime over a sufficient period of time, as evidenced by the fact that only a short time ago theyt were lobbying to have sanctions dropped against Hussein. The French a nd the Russians desire that Hussein maintain power, for they believe it is in their interest that he do so, and will thus not be reliable partners in keeping him from obtaining WMD. This is not said perjoratively; entities which prefer that Hussein maintain his power will not be reliable in undertaking those actions which threaten Hussein, or forcing him to cooperate with inpsections. Hussein will thus, over time, be successful in pursuing what he has the time and money to pursue. The fact that the U.S. once played Hussein off against the Iranian tyrants is irrelevant to this reality.

Whether or not Hussein has direct contact with Al Queda, it is indisputable that he has no hesitancy in funding terrorist groups that slaughter civilians. More importantly, the entire Middle East is a region in which various terrorist entities gain support from oil-wealthy tyrants with which to execute their plans of slaughter. If the Bush plans for affecting rapid change in the region's status quo end at Iraq's border, those plans are not nearly ambitious enough.

If Al Queda or other groups only had at their disposal the resources of sub-Saharan Africa, they would be of little import. Unfortunately, these entities have at their disposal the resources made available to them by tyrants which control a natural resource that the entire world economy (no, not just rich SUV driving Americans) depends on. As long as these tyrants, be they elements of the House of Saud, Iranian, Iraqi, or others, control that natural resource, and they see it in their interest to support Al Queda, Hamas, Hezbollah, or other murderous groups, American civilians are in danger of mass slaughter, by increasingly sophisticated means.

Changing an entire region's status quo is a gigantic task, but failing to do so is a near guarantee of events that will make 9/11 seem mild in comparison. It is impossible to construct a 100% effective defense against enemies which have the resources and the ideological fervor to slaughter civilians, and less than 100% effectiveness gurantees disaster. Since eliminating the ideological fervor cannnot be done against all who are now possessed of it, and it can only be done slowly for those who can be dissuaded, and such a slow pace of change guarantees mass slaughter, given the impossibility of constructing a 100% effective defense, then those murderous entities must be rapidly deprived of resources by offensive means. That means fundamental change in the tyrannical entities that now lend support to such entities.

Hussein is the tyrant that can be toppled first, thus providing leverage against other tyrannies who now support entities like Al Queda, like elements within the House of Saud, and Iran, which seems to be on the brink of tossing their fascist rulers overboard. Make no mistake, this is a gigantic challenge with huge risks. However, since failing to rapidly change the status quo is a near guarantee of utter disaster, it is a huge challenge that must be undertaken.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 7, 2003 04:25 PM

Courageous leadership apart, I am wondering what fraction of the American people would aggree with the war on Iraq if they knew the extent of what they are getting involved in...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 7, 2003 04:39 PM

I guess it's all a question of trust:

http://www.salon.com/comics/boll/2003/03/06/boll/index1.html

;-)

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 7, 2003 05:29 PM

To add to what Jim Glass has writen, France should have mobilized its troops to the border of the Rhineland in 1936 when Hitler occupied it. Had they done so, Hitler would undoubtedly have backed down, and the Anschluss with Austria would probably have never occurred. Nor the rape of Czechoslovakia.

Further, had France come to the aid of Poland in September 1939 (while the Polish army was fighting a somewhat successful defensive battle with Hitler) by invading Germany from the West, the war might have ended quickly.

Instead, both France and Britain waited (the Phony War) until Hitler unleashed his blitzkrieg in May of 1940. I.e., they "waited until Hitler brought the war to them...".

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on March 7, 2003 06:05 PM

Jean-Philippe: "Talking about changing the status quo in the Middle East, how much would bribing both sides to the negatiation tables in the Israel-Palestine conflict could cost? 2 x 6 billion dollars?"

Do you *really* think it's a question of money? First, the Palestinians don't need any money at all to agree to get to the bargaining table - they'd be willing to go right now. Secondly, I don't think any money at this point would convince the Israelis to make peace on the terms that most of the international community accepts, that is, pre-1967 borders. It's not money which is lacking, but trust. Trust is lacking because there are enough people on both sides who don't want peace on terms that are minimally acceptable to the other side, and are willing to resort to violence to advance their aims.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on March 7, 2003 06:07 PM

>That power that had people in the most retrenched corners of the globe drink Coca- Cola and look up to America as the liberator country...

Before many cheered the mass murder of 3,000 innocent Americans and damned the US for trying to see that never happens again.

>And how about allowing elections to take place in Palestine

THOSE DAMN JEWS. They muck up everything, don't they?

Posted by: Bucky Dent on March 7, 2003 06:15 PM

"To add to what Jim Glass has writen, France should have mobilized its troops to the border of the Rhineland in 1936 when Hitler occupied it. Had they done so, Hitler would undoubtedly have backed down, and the Anschluss with Austria would probably have never occurred. Nor the rape of Czechoslovakia."

That's probably true. France did not mobilize in 1935 or 1936 and in retrospect it should have. France wanted to preserve the alliance with Great-Britain and British government was not convinced that Germany was a danger.

If I remeber well, in the his book "Diplomacy" Kissinger explains how France was perceived as strong because victorious while in fact it had been terribly weakened by WW1.


Posted by: fberthol on March 7, 2003 06:24 PM

To understand the effect of WW1 on France:

The number of victim compared to the population of France at the time is equivalent to between two or thre 9/11 a day every day during 4 years.

When you hear that nothing will be the same again after 9/11, you can understand that Franc ewas transformed by WW1 and wanted to believe in peace.

Posted by: fberthol on March 7, 2003 06:38 PM

>France was transformed by WW1 and wanted to believe in peace.

And we all know how that turned out.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on March 7, 2003 06:40 PM

**>And how about allowing elections to take place in Palestine

THOSE DAMN JEWS. They muck up everything, don't they?**

Oh surprising, criticism of Israel = anti-Semiticism.

And neo-cons (and affiliated) would like to be taken seriously...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 7, 2003 07:22 PM

>>Further, had France come to the aid of Poland in September 1939 (while the Polish army was fighting a somewhat successful defensive battle with Hitler) by invading Germany from the West, the war might have ended quickly.<<

Patrick, time to crack open your WWII history books. Far from fighting a successful defensive battle, the Polish army's conduct of the 1939 campaign was a disaster. The individual Polish soldiers fought bravely but they were hopelessly spread out trying to guard every part of Poland's huge border with Germany and Slovakia--they were either overrun and bypassed in a matter of days. Only when the Germans reached Warsaw did the defense stiffen and show what might have happened if the Polish army had been concentrated in the central region. As it was, the Germans were already mopping up the Warsaw defenses by the time a French offensive in the Rhine got going.

After the fall of Poland, France did not see any reason to continue an offensive both because they had only a trickle of commitment from Britain and because of the reasons fberthol described accurately above--France had nearly bled to death in 1914-1918 and did not want to risk repeating the experience without reliable allies at its side. It's funny how all the anti-French bigots don't like to mention the more than 5 million French soldiers who were killed or wounded in 1914-1918, more than in all of America's wars combined.

Once again, I would like to repeat how utterly shameful _and anti-American_ is the bigoted abuse spat out at the French in so many publications. As is President Bush, who has not spoken out even once against it. I might be able to forgive the irresponsible fiscal policy and the unilateralist foreign policy, but this is just too much.

Posted by: andres on March 7, 2003 09:48 PM

I don't think Bush will speak out against French abuse. And apparently, if you're Mexican-American it's time to duck and cover.

This from the San Diego Union Tribune:
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/uniontrib/tue/news/news_1n4bush.html

"Closer to home, Bush seemed concerned at the debate on Iraq under way in Mexico, which will have a vote on the Security Council resolution to authorize the use of force to disarm Iraq.

"We'll be disappointed if people don't support us," he said pointedly.

Bush added, "But, nevertheless, I don't expect for there to be significant retribution from the government."

His emphasis was on the word "government," raising the possibility of adverse reaction to Mexico from the U.S. business community or citizens.

He cited what he called "an interesting phenomena taking place here in America about the French."

With many Americans unhappy at French opposition to war, Bush noted "a backlash against the French, not stirred up by anybody except by the people."

If Mexico or other countries oppose the United States, he said, "There will be a certain sense of discipline." But he quickly added, "I expect Mexico to be with us."

Disgusting!

Posted by: Dan on March 7, 2003 10:42 PM

"If my memory serves, Daladier was perfectly willing to go to war with Germany over Czechoslovakia, but did not do so because he would have had to go at it alone.."

Ah, so you are saying it was only the British who had the "guts and honor" to hand over somebody else's country to the Nazis to get peace for *themselves* in their own time. The French merely went along, in violation of their treaty obligations with the Czechs, because they were a passive and ineffectual sort of ally.

OK, sure. But it still doesn't bring "guts and honor" exactly to mind as a description of such behavior, or present any picture of them "trying for Hitler's head", eh?

When the French foreign minister recently observed that war is always proof of failure, do you suppose that this and the 1940 follow-up were what he had in mind?

Well, both the British and the French failed then, but today the British at least seem to have learned the appropriate lesson from the experience.

"once Hitler showed his true colors by invading the rest of Czechoslovakia"

Hitler hadn't shown his true colors before invading *the rest* of Czechoslovakia?

"it was Chamberlain, not Churchill, who gave military guarantees to Poland and who dusted off the alliance with France in order to warn Hitler"

Well gosh, at Munich Chamberlain had *guaranteed* the borders of *the rest* of Czechoslovakia, and then Hitler had gobbled that up too 1,2,3 ... how much longer do you think Neville might plausibly have waited to "warn Hitler"? You describe this as if it was some sort of assertive act. ;-)

"And it was under Chamberlain's urging, not Churchill's, that Britain declared war on Germany after the invasion of Poland."

Yes, it was Chamberlain who *finally* gave impossible military guarantees to indefensible, undemocratic Poland. But your implication that Neville was more hawkish than Winston is quite amusing.

Winston of course was not in the government then, so he couldn't "give" anything or declare war on anybody. OTOH, as far as "urging" goes, what was Winston urging about keeping the 35 Czech divisions, the Czech defenses that had 30 German divisions tied down, and the Skoda armament works, while Neville and Edouard were giving them all away?

Posted by: Jim Glass on March 7, 2003 10:57 PM

"If my memory serves, Daladier was perfectly willing to go to war with Germany over Czechoslovakia, but did not do so because he would have had to go at it alone.."

Ah, so you are saying it was only the British who had the "guts and honor" to hand over somebody else's country to the Nazis to get peace for *themselves* in their own time. The French merely went along, in violation of their treaty obligations with the Czechs, because they were a passive and ineffectual sort of ally.

OK, sure. But it still doesn't bring "guts and honor" exactly to mind as a description of such behavior, or present any picture of them "trying for Hitler's head", eh?

When the French foreign minister recently observed that war is always proof of failure, do you suppose that this and the 1940 follow-up were what he had in mind?

Well, both the British and the French failed then, but today the British at least seem to have learned the appropriate lesson from the experience.

"once Hitler showed his true colors by invading the rest of Czechoslovakia"

Hitler hadn't shown his true colors before invading *the rest* of Czechoslovakia?

"it was Chamberlain, not Churchill, who gave military guarantees to Poland and who dusted off the alliance with France in order to warn Hitler"

Well gosh, at Munich Chamberlain had *guaranteed* the borders of *the rest* of Czechoslovakia, and then Hitler had gobbled that up too 1,2,3 ... how much longer do you think Neville might plausibly have waited to "warn Hitler"? You describe this as if it was some sort of assertive act. ;-)

"And it was under Chamberlain's urging, not Churchill's, that Britain declared war on Germany after the invasion of Poland."

Yes, it was Chamberlain who *finally* gave impossible military guarantees to indefensible, undemocratic Poland. But your implication that Neville was more hawkish than Winston is quite amusing.

Winston of course was not in the government then, so he couldn't "give" anything or declare war on anybody. OTOH, as far as "urging" goes, what was Winston urging about keeping the 35 Czech divisions, the Czech defenses that had 30 German divisions tied down, and the Skoda armament works, while Neville and Edouard were giving them all away?

Posted by: Jim Glass on March 7, 2003 11:02 PM

"Is it really in the interest of the US to bully each and every country that does not agree with its aggresive foreigh policy?"

You mean the way we publicly tell the leaders of other countries to "shut up", warn them when they are "not well behaved", and openly threaten that they won't get the trade agreements they have been promised unless their behavior improves and they adopt our party line?

Well, yes, we certainly could learn from the sophisticated French in that regard. ;-)

Posted by: Jim Glass on March 7, 2003 11:18 PM

"Far from fighting a successful defensive battle,..."

Poland was indefensible. That's why it was absurd to give away the very credible Czech defenses a year earlier to "buy peace", then guarantee the indefensible rump of Czechoslovakia, then guarantee indefensible Poland. Was Hitler going to pay any attention to such "guarantees" after the British and French had given away on a platter the one ally that *was* defensible?

"After the fall of Poland, France did not see any reason to continue an offensive.."

As if they'd started one that anybody noticed.

"both because they had only a trickle of commitment from Britain"

Britain was in with both feet.

"and because of the reasons fberthol described accurately above -- France had nearly bled to death in 1914-1918 and did not want to risk repeating the experience without reliable allies at its side."

Exactly the opposite. France had learned from the experience of WWI too well and was planning to repeat it. In WWI it learned that expensively trained and equipped mobile units got wiped out quickly. So it abandoned them for big but low-trained, mass conscript armies that would learn as they go, set in defensive positions, moved slowly into place via railroads. The French army of 1939 was incapable of making any kind of serious mobile attack into Germany while the Germans were in Poland.

That's why they didn't attack. It wasn't fear of casualties or lack of support from Britain. It was that they were incapable of maneuver. E.g., they had more tanks than the Germans and better ones too in terms of guns and armor. But most of their tanks were distributed among infantry units and they had no radios, so they couldn't co-ordinate. The German tanks had weaker guns and armor but were faster, were organized in dedicated units, had radios and were practiced at fast coordinated movement. We know the result. The Germans as a result of losing WWI had drawn the opposite lesson than the French -- that defensive attrition warfare was a loser, and mobile attack was the way to win.

This isn't to say the French couldn't have done more than they did during they phony war. They could have moved their lines forward some to deprive the Germans of their choice of where to flank them, and maybe have avoided the disaster through the Ardennes. But the French were basically committed to the slow, massive defense. And we know how that turned out when the Germans got behind them, going fast and mobile.

"Once again, I would like to repeat how utterly shameful _and anti-American_ is the bigoted abuse spat out at the French in so many publications. As is President Bush, who has not spoken out even once against it. "

Well, I suppose then that the American flags with swastikas on them that I've seen in pictures from France must be proudly pro-French, because I haven't seen Chirac or anyone else over there saying anything about them (except maybe to egg such protestors on.)

Posted by: Jim Glass on March 8, 2003 12:35 AM

'You mean the way we publicly tell the leaders of other countries to "shut up", warn them when they are "not well behaved", and openly threaten that they won't get the trade agreements they have been promised unless their behavior improves and they adopt our party line?'

The Krugman editorial quoted a couple times above points out we're doing exactly that.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on March 8, 2003 01:57 AM

> would like to be taken seriously...

Considering the Jewish State is the ONLY nation in the region that DOES have genuine, contested elections, and DOES allow Arabs to vote and SERVE in parliament, there is only one conclusion to draw when the Jewish State is the ONLY nation to repeatedly be SINGLED OUT for criticism of its alleged democratic failings. Not to mention being blamed for the conflicts away from its borders.

And you're concerned about being taken seriously.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on March 8, 2003 05:29 AM

Concerning the 30's, it is clear that there was a contradiction between France's diplomacy (alliances with Poland and Tchecoslovaquia) and its military strategy (completely defensive).

Posted by: Faber on March 8, 2003 06:30 AM

I have nothing to say to the anti-French bigots who believe that they could have done bettter fighting the Second World War, though I do wonder how many of them, like Den Beste, have no actual military experience themselves. Those who have served their country have my respect as soldiers, though not as bigots, but I respectfully suggest that they consider that strategies that seem the best a force can do before engagement often fail in actual battle. The rest are beneath contempt.

To those complaining of anti-French bigotry I can only add my support, and note that hatred of France and the French has long been simmering in this country. Although every nation has its bigots, anti-French bigotry has been considered justified and acceptable in a frighteningly large fraction of the population of the USA. One opposes it where one can, but unfortunately it is a higher priority to oppose anti-American racist bigotry even for those of us who recognize the ugliness of xenophobia for what it is.

Posted by: Bob Webber on March 8, 2003 07:13 AM

I think that Bucky Dent needs to be concerned about being taken seriously, as Iran has contested elections and a democratic process in place, Turkey has contested elections and a democratic process in place.

Egypt has contested elections and a nominally democratic process in place, albeit allegedly even more rife with corruption as Florida's.

Jordan nominally has contested elections, albeit the main opposition parties boycotted the election last go-round, making it uncontested, on the premise that corruption made it pointless for them (e.g. the Islamic Action Front) to participate -- nonetheless, the Islamic Action Front had previously won seats in Jordan's parliament.

Posted by: Bob Webber on March 8, 2003 07:24 AM

Andres:
It's funny — conservatives who malign Chamberlain's record actually overlook the testimony of Churchill himself. Look no further than these comments, given during Chamberlain's eulogy:
==
It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man.

But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart — the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour.

Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.

Posted by: Greg Greene on March 8, 2003 08:48 AM

Andres:
It's funny — conservatives who malign Chamberlain's record actually overlook the testimony of Churchill himself. Look no further than these comments, given during Chamberlain's eulogy:
==
It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man.

But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart — the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour.

Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.

Posted by: Greg Greene on March 8, 2003 08:49 AM

Andres:
It's funny — conservatives who malign Chamberlain's record actually overlook the testimony of Churchill himself. Look no further than these comments, given during Chamberlain's eulogy:
==
It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man.

But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart — the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour.

Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.

Posted by: Greg Greene on March 8, 2003 08:51 AM

Andres:
It's funny — conservatives who malign Chamberlain's record actually overlook the testimony of Churchill himself. Look no further than these comments, given during Chamberlain's eulogy:
==
It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man.

But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart — the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour.

Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.

Posted by: Greg Greene on March 8, 2003 08:54 AM

Andres:
It's funny — conservatives who malign Chamberlain's record actually overlook the testimony of Churchill himself. Look no further than these comments, given during Chamberlain's eulogy:
==
It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man.

But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart — the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour.

Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.

Posted by: Greg Greene on March 8, 2003 08:58 AM

Andres:
It's funny — conservatives who malign Chamberlain's record actually overlook the testimony of Churchill himself. Look no further than these comments, given during Chamberlain's eulogy:
==
It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man.

But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart — the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour.

Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.

Posted by: Greg Greene on March 8, 2003 09:16 AM

Andres:
It's funny — conservatives who malign Chamberlain's record actually overlook the testimony of Churchill himself. Look no further than these comments, given during Chamberlain's eulogy:
==
It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man.

But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart — the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour.

Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.

Posted by: Greg Greene on March 8, 2003 09:21 AM

Andres:
It's funny — conservatives who malign Chamberlain's record actually overlook the testimony of Churchill himself. Look no further than these comments, given during Chamberlain's eulogy:
==
It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man.

But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart — the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour.

Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.

Posted by: Greg Greene on March 8, 2003 09:22 AM

Greg--just don't hit the post button multiple times and you won't get multiple posts.

Thank you for posting that eulogy (which I didn't know about)--I guess Churchill didn't go out of his way to smear Chamberlain after all. Nevertheless, the eulogy overlooks that the scales fell off Chamberlain's eyes after Hitler violated the Munich treaty by invading the rest of Czechoslovakia, so after that he could not be accused of a noble desire to avoid war if at all possible.

Jim:

>>It wasn't fear of casualties or lack of support from Britain. It was that they were incapable of maneuver. E.g., they had more tanks than the Germans and better ones too in terms of guns and armor. But most of their tanks were distributed among infantry units and they had no radios, so they couldn't co-ordinate. The German tanks had weaker guns and armor but were faster, were organized in dedicated units, had radios and were practiced at fast coordinated movement. We know the result. The Germans as a result of losing WWI had drawn the opposite lesson than the French -- that defensive attrition warfare was a loser, and mobile attack was the way to win.<<

You may well be right about why France didn't launch a _large_ offensive (though they did try to cross the border and abandoned the attempt after Poland fell). But I think your post still proves my point--France was defeated not out of cowardice but because its army was tactically inferior and was strategically outmaneuvered in May 1940.

And yes, there are French people who have heaped abuse on the U.S., which is shameful and yes, anti-French behavior. I condemn it as well, though I doubt there are as many anti-U.S. bigots in France (as a proportion of the population) compared to anti-French bigots here, who have been particularly vocal.

Posted by: andres on March 8, 2003 09:33 AM

andres: anti-US bigots? You evidently don't live here, so I respectfully submit you don't have a clue. Maybe you should read Le Monde's forums (http://forums.lemonde.fr/perl/wwwthreads.pl).

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on March 8, 2003 09:52 AM

andres: anti-US bigots? You evidently don't live here, so I respectfully submit you don't have a clue. Maybe you should read Le Monde's forums (http://forums.lemonde.fr/perl/wwwthreads.pl).

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on March 8, 2003 09:57 AM

Churchill was very very gracious to Chamberlain in his memoirs. It came as a shock to me when I first read them.


Posted by: Bucky Dent on March 8, 2003 10:07 AM

Memo to muliple posters: I don't have that problem with Mozilla or its relatives such as K-Meleon. It is an awful problem with Opera.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on March 8, 2003 10:36 AM

Memo to muliple posters: I don't have that problem with Mozilla or its relatives such as K-Meleon. It is an awful problem with Opera.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on March 8, 2003 10:41 AM

Duh :)

Posted by: Bucky Dent on March 8, 2003 10:54 AM

Churchill's eulogy for Chamberlain was just that, i.e. an occasion not to speak ill of the dead (but I suggest Greg read it again, with the phrase: "damn with faint praise", in mind).

At the time of Munich, Churchill had far more pointed remarks. Something about Chamberlain thinking he was, "choosing between war and dishonor, he chose dishonor...but he'll get war". And Churchill accurately described how it would unfold:

"We have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat... we are in the midst of a disaster of the first magnitude. The road down the Danube... the road to the Black Sea has been open... All the countries of Mittel Europa and the Danube valley, one after another, will be drawn in the vast system of Nazi politics... radiating from Berlin... And do not suppose that this is the end. It is only the beginning..."

Also, I guess andres missed my modifier, "somewhat", of "successful defense". Poland fought on until October 1939, all the while waiting for its allies to relieve them by an attack on Hitler's virtually undefended western borders.

BTW, without Stalin also attacking Poland, it would have even more costly for Hitler's troops than it was. And I doubt the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact would have eventuated if Chamberlain had stood up to Hitler in 1938.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on March 8, 2003 10:59 AM

Here's another exchange with a frenchman:

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/07/international/07TEXT-STRAW.html?pagewanted=print&position=top

-------quote-------
Why has there been this sudden bout of activity when there was no progress at all for weeks before that, where for months and for years before that, Saddam Hussein was rearming under our noses? Now, it isn't our policy which has changed. It's not international law which has changed. There has been, from the beginning, the clearest instructions to Saddam to disarm. No. What has changed is one thing and one thing only: the pressure on the regime.

Dr. Blix said in his opening remarks that this -- what's changed may well be due to strong outside pressure. That's absolutely right. In his remarks, Dominique de Villepin said that -- and described a lot of diplomatic pressure by the non-aligned movement, by the European Union, by the Arab League and by many others. And I greatly welcome all of that diplomatic pressure. Dominique went on to say, "and the United States and United Kingdom forces lend support to that pressure" With respect to my good friend, I think it's the other way around. (Laughter.) I really do. What has happened? All that pressure was there for every day of 12 years. In Dr. Blix's carefully chosen words, the "strong outside pressure" is -- and let us be blunt about this -- the presence of over 200,000 United States and United Kingdom young men and young women willing to put their lives on the line for the sake of this body, the United Nations.

And Dominique also said the choice before us was disarmament by peace or disarmament by war. Dominique, that's a false choice. I wish that it were that easy, because we wouldn't be having to have this discussion. We could all put up our hands for disarmament by peace and go home.

....

in the light of what I have said, I should tell the council that I'm asking on behalf of the cosponsors of our draft resolution -- the Kingdom of Spain, the government of the United States, and the government of the United Kingdom -- I'm asking the secretariat to circulate an amendment which we are tabling which will specify a further period beyond the adoption of a resolution for Iraq to take the final opportunity to disarm and to bring themselves into compliance.

But, Mr. President, the council must send Iraq the clear message that we will resolve this crisis on the United Nations' terms, the terms which the council established four months ago, when we unanimously adopted Resolution 1441.

-------endquote------

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on March 8, 2003 11:30 AM

Tom Fox's "Paris" blog notes a "Journal du Dimanche" survey published 23 February, 2003 which gave results of 76% of those (French people) surveyed liking Americans, but 70% overall opposing "intervention" in Iraq, with 17% disliking Americans. Living in the USA, I have to agree with his speculation that "...the figure in America on [hating] the French would be considerably higher."

And certainly I can find you discussion boards for US papers that are as horrid as the examples from Le Monde. Like talk radio and comment threads of weblogs, BBS discussions tend to showcase people who are driven by hate to denounce the objects of their hatred.

The blog entry mentioned is at http://blogs.salon.com/0001514/2003/02/23.html; Tom Fox notes that the document is not available on the web.

Posted by: Bob Webber on March 8, 2003 03:26 PM

Churchill, whatever one thinks of him, and he had plenty of faults, was really great with the English language. As eulogies with background messages go this is right up there with "I come not to praise Caesar ..."

"It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man."

Of course, it was precisely Chamberlain's job NOT to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man intent on bringing ruin to all those whom he was supposed to protect.

"But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart the love of peace..."

And is there a better example anywhere in real life of the road to a true hell being charted out with good intentions and paved with the love of peace?

Good intentions are Satan's tool for turning off critical thought. "I really and truly mean well, therefore I must be right. Moral certainty clinches it. That's enough."

Someone mentioned Kissinger's book on all this so I looked it up last night. Henry relates how Chamberlain was distraught at the thought sending English boys to die to help some distant country they had never seen (Czecholsovakia). So far, fine for Neville as a human being.

But it was his job as Prime Minister to know the British had been doing exactly that for *hundreds of years* and for a real REASON. Being an island, Britain was secure from attack as long as its navy ruled the water. And as long as the powers on the Continent were divided they had to focus on building armies to deal with each other, rather than build a navy. But if one power ever managed to secure the continent, it could build a navy to match Britain's and then invade with an army that was much larger. So for centuries, whenever such a power seemed to be rising, Britain would intervene on the other side -- no matter how distant and noxious -- to keep the powers balanced and the continent divided.

The rise of such a power was *exactly* what was happening in 1938 as Germany swept up Central Europe. But Chamberlain, instead of countering as per historical British strategy 101 by at least making the Germans bleed in taking defensible Czechoslovakia, rather *gave it away* ... for peace! Churchill was aghast not only at the betrayal of a democracy, but also at the loss of the Czech divisions that could have taken a good chunk out of the German army, giving the British more time to catch up with re-arming -- while handing the Skoda armament works to the enemy to boot!

Churchill had "good intentions" too -- but he understood the strategic situation. Kissinger asked how, after all that British history, was it possible that Britain could have a PM who was blinded to the great strategic risk facing his nation by his compassion and good intentions?

"we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights"

Another question to ask is, how does one reconcile "perfect sincerity" with breaking treaty obligations to turn a democratic ally over to the Nazis, without even *consulting* it?? It sort of makes one reconsider "according to his lights", eh?

Great speech by Churchill. As real-life speeches with hidden background messages go, it's almost up there with Casey Stengle's testimony to Congress during baseball's anti-trust hearings. ;-)

Never trust a politician because of his professed good intentions -- especially if they are genuine.

Posted by: Jim Glass on March 8, 2003 04:03 PM

"I think your post still proves my point -- France was defeated not out of cowardice but because its army was tactically inferior and was strategically outmaneuvered in May 1940."

I never said France was defeated because its soldiers were cowards, or its people either. But leadership counts and its *leaders* were failures. Its politicians appeased, its generals didn't believe in aggressive fighting, and didn't have the personal character to do so. One has to ask, *why* were the French so operationally and strategically inferior, when France had fully adequate military, manpower and economic resources to deal with the Germans

E.g., when the Germans came through the Ardennes the French commander of the front, General Georges, broke down crying in front of his men. To quote a French officer present, (quoted by Keegan):
~~
Georges ... flung himself into a chair and burst into tears. Doumenc [Georges' subordinate] reacted immediately, "General, this is war and in war things like these are bound to happen!" Then Georges explained how under terrible bombardment two divisions had taken to their heels [and the situation was worsening]. Here there was another flood of tears. Everyone remained silent, shattered. "Well, General", said Doumenc, "all wars have their costs, let's look at the map and see what can be done"...
~~

How would you like to have *that* guy commanding you as you defend your nation in its critical hour!?

When news of the breakthrough arrived Churchill met the top French Commander, Gen. Gamelin, and suggested that then was the time to use the reserves to close the hole in the line at the Ardennes. Gamelin famously replied, "There aren't any."

Churchill: "I was dumbfounded. It had never occurred to me that commanders having to defend five hundred miles of engaged front would have left themselves unprovided with any reserve." Because what if the enemy broke through the line somewhere?

The issue in all this isn't "cowardice", it's how did such "leadership" come to be in place? It wasn't because the French had lost so many men in WWI, because the Germans had too, had actually lost the war, and had suffered mightily afterward -- yet came back all too aggressively and competently.

Well, leadership must reflect the polity to some extent, or it won't survive -- so maybe, yes, this all partly reflects the effect on the society of the great losses of WWI. But leadership has a duty to *lead* too, even if the direction is unpopular. If the Nazis are rising next door it's not leadership to say "Like all good people we want peace, and we're still very tired from last time, so let's appease to stall and not get too rigorous about building our fighting ability."

In the US, as late as mid-1941 FDR was afraid he'd be impeached if he got us into the war. Yet George Marshall still replaced every single command-level officer but one in the US army to get the peace-time managers out and the fighters in, so there wouldn't be a crybaby or strategic incompetent in the lot.

France was so much closer to the war, why didn't its leaders do the same thing? As a starter?

I don't know. I'm not throwing any insults. But there are still lessons to be learned from this, and possible parallels to consider.


Posted by: Jim Glass on March 8, 2003 05:32 PM

About this time last year after driving and visiting the incredible length of the Normandy beaches, my wife and I spent most of a day at the WWII Museum in Caen. What came through so loud and clear was that France, the current French, whatever we want to call them, are not proud of their national conduct in WWII. The time is continously referred to as the "dark days". This is also the attitude in much of Germany. Of all the Western European countries, only Great Britain remembers WWII with anything resembling pride. For most, they were really "dark days",the kind of time most of us lucky Americans have never experienced except for the relatively few like my father and my wife's uncles on someone elses far away beaches or in far away towns and back yards.

As we deal with this current pimple of a problem, how will this nation state remember these days 50 years from now? Perhaps it will be with great pride in the bravery we showed while popping a pimple. However, one has to wonder.

Posted by: Sam Taylor on March 8, 2003 08:31 PM

Slight change of focus, but relevant anyway - those interested in the supposed perfidy of the French might refer to the recently published memoirs of John Nott, British defence secretary at the time of the Falklands War (a just war against outright fascist aggression). The French , Nott points out, were our staunchest allies, providing key intelligence on Argentine weaponary. Where was the US? Hardly anywhere to be seen, with people like Jean Kirkpatrick activly lobbying for Argentina. As someone recently wrote, in the UK we can't really have any confidence that the US would 'cross the road to piss on us if we were on fire'.

Posted by: John Chave on March 9, 2003 03:28 AM

The French selling out their Argentine allies is not exactly proof of their bravery, to put it mildly.

And the US was condemned by the Argentines for providing logistical, intelligence and diplomatic aid to the UK, as I recall.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on March 9, 2003 04:57 AM

A brief historical survey of French anti-Americanism, in Foreign Affairs:

http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20030301fareviewessay10345/walter-russell-mead/why-do-they-hate-us-two-books-take-aim-at-french-anti-americanism.html

Posted by: Jim Glass on March 9, 2003 07:32 AM

Jim: Sounds good. If you are willing to concede that the French did not lose in 1940 out of cowardice but simply out of having an inferior military organization, then I give in to all your other points, which are mainly true but are hardly conducive to accusing the French of cowardice with regards to Iraq. The real French perfidy in WWII was committed by Petain and Laval after France's surrender, not before.

Digression: I do,however, dispute your points about the U.S.: as far as I know, Roosevelt did not engage in a wholesale purge of the military command--if you have evidence to the contrary, please let me know the sources. And in fact many U.S. commanders were unfairly purged after Dec. 7 1941--Adm. Kimmel, Gen. Lucas, and later the captain of the ill-fated USS Indianapolis.

Bucky: as far as I know, France was never allied to Argentina. And the Reagan administration, Kirkpatrick included, was highly reluctant to turn completely against the Argentinian military, whose 1976 coup was aided and abetted by the U.S. government (Ford Adm., including people like Cheney and Rumsfeld). Nor did the U.S. raise significant protests at the dirty war carried out by the Argentinian military which killed more than 10,000 Argentinians. Another example of why the Bush adm. should not be trusted when it mouths pieties about restoring democracy to Iraq.

Posted by: andres on March 9, 2003 10:02 AM

Ah, the Bushies are to blame for Argentina too. Good. I am certain little evil in the world escaped their ministrations.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on March 9, 2003 12:35 PM

"If you are willing to concede that the French did not lose in 1940 out of cowardice..."

I don't feel the need to concede regarding something I never said.

"I do, however, dispute your points about the U.S.: as far as I know, Roosevelt did not engage in a wholesale purge of the military command -- if you have evidence to the contrary, please let me know the sources..."

Not "purged". Stalin purged his generals. Marshall replaced peacetime commanders of combat units with younger officers selected for their ability to command as demonstrated by their performance in extensive maneuvers and other tests the he organized to identify them. That's not a purge, that's good management. In the end, all the command-level line officers but one were replaced. Any good history of the US military in WWII should cover this. E.g., going over to my bookshelf...

~~
Gen Marshall, a month after being sworn in as Chief of Staff in 1939, [said]:
"The present officers of the line are for the most part too old to command troops in battle under the tremendous pressures of modern war. Many of them have their minds set in outmoded patterns and can't change to meet the new conditions we will face in a war in Europe. I do not propose to send our young citizen soldiers into action under [such commanders]. They will have the chance to prove what they can do, but I don't believe that many of them will come through satisfactorily. Those that don't will be eliminated."

Marshall was as good as his word. Of all the senior officers "of the line" at the time he took charge, that is potential commanders of a corps or more, only one, Walter Krueger, was given command of troops in WWII.

-- from _Commander in Chief: FDR, His Lieutenants and Their War,_ by Eric Larrabee
~~

As my own digression, Marshall's selection of the new commanders had interesting consequences. E.g, he originally picked Stillwell for Europe and Drum for the Chinese theater. But Drum was the army's senior general -- he'd expected to get Marshall's job -- and lectured Marshall that propriety indicated he should get the European command. So Marshall fired him out of the army on the spot, and then because Stillwell had been stationed in China at one point or some such thing, he moved Stillwell to the China theater. That opened Europe for Eisenhower. Stillwell lost the chance to command the invasion of Europe and instead spent the war as a theater commander without an army dealing with Asian politicians. An acerbic fellow to begin with, the experience turned him into the army's most famous four-star cynic. Eisenhower became President.

So if Drum keeps his mouth shut like a good soldier and takes the job given to him, Eisenhower never becomes President. And maybe the witty President Stillwell leads the West during the Cold War in the 1950s.

Posted by: Jim Glass on March 9, 2003 02:08 PM

On a related note, Jed Babbin, talking about generals in NR, says that "Clinton-era hangovers who oppose the president should be asked to resign."

Posted by: Jason McCullough on March 9, 2003 04:53 PM

Oops, link.

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-babbin030603.asp

Posted by: Jason McCullough on March 9, 2003 04:58 PM
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